Last night, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band performed on the National Mall as part of the 100th National Christmas Tree Lighting.
The ceremony, which took place on the Ellipse just south of the White House, was attended by President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, second gentleman Doug Emhoff and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.
“Through seasons [of] struggle and strife, progress and prosperity, for a century and counting, we’ve come together in a spirit of unity and joy, hope and light,” Biden said at the event, after flipping the switch to light the tree.
At this year’s event, which was hosted by rapper LL Cool J, the Marine Corps jazz ensemble accompanied performances by Andy Grammer, Ariana DeBose, Shania Twain, Joss Stone, Gloria Estefan and Yolanda Adams. The event will be broadcast on CBS on Dec. 11 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.
“The holidays give us a very clear opportunity to celebrate the value of music,” Col. Jason Fettig, the band’s director, told Military Times. “It’s always a treat for us to support this event.”
“The President’s Own” Marine Band, founded in 1798 by an act of Congress, is the oldest continuously active American professional music organization. It first performed at the National Christmas Tree Lighting when the initial ceremony took place in 1923 under President Calvin Coolidge.
Since then, the band has played at nearly all of the tree lightings, although it occasionally rotates with other services’ musical groups. In 1975, however, frosty air put a damper on the typically musical holiday gathering.
“Not one note was played! 20-30 mph winds, chill factor made it well below zero! Horns completely frozen in less than five minutes,” the band’s library log said, according to a Marine press release.
The holiday performance comes on the heels of the band’s annual concert tour earlier this fall, which it had not been able to do since 2019 because of the pandemic.
“When we go out on the road and share music with citizens all across the country you can feel the visceral response to that, you can feel the emotion that goes along with that. It absolutely does connect those who serve, and those who have served, with those whom they serve,” added Fettig, who has been the band’s director since 2014.
This year’s National Christmas Tree, a 27-foot white fir, was planted last October after the previous live tree was removed in May 2021 due to a fungal disease. It is surrounded by 58 smaller trees adorned with ornaments from across the 50 states and territories.
Visitors can check out the National Christmas Tree site beginning tomorrow through Jan. 1.
Other holiday events are also taking place around the nation’s capital in the coming weeks.
The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree was lit by the Speaker of the House on Tuesday night and will be illuminated each evening through Jan. 1. The National Menorah Lighting will take place on the Ellipse on the first night of Hanukkah in the evening of Dec. 18.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media